Digital information and the 'privatisation of knowledge'

Joint, Nicholas (2007) Digital information and the 'privatisation of knowledge'. Library Review, 56 (8). pp. 659-665. ISSN 0024-2535 (

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Purpose of this paper: To point out that past models of information ownership may not carry over to the age of digital information. The fact that public ownership of information (for example, by means of national and public library collections) created social benefits in the past does not mean that a greater degree of private sector involvement in information provision in the knowledge society of today is synonymous with an abandonment of past ideals of social information provision. Design/methodology/approach: A brief review of recent issues in digital preservation and national electronic heritage management, with an examination of the public/private sector characteristics of each issue. Findings: Private companies and philanthropic endeavours focussing on the business of digital information provision have done some things - which in the past we have associated with the public domain - remarkably well. It is probably fair to say that this has occurred against the pattern of expectation of the library profession. Research limitations/Implications:The premise of this paper is that LIS research aimed at predicting future patterns of problem solving in information work should avoid the narrow use of patterns of public-private relationships inherited from a previous, print-based information order. Practical implications: This paper suggests practical ways in which the library and information profession can improve digital library services by looking to form creative partnerships with private sector problem solvers. What is original/value of the paper? This paper argues that the LIS profession should not take a doctrinaire approach to commercial company involvement in 'our' information world. Librarians should facilitate collaboration between all parties, both public and private, to create original solutions to contemporary information provision problems. In this way we can help create pragmatic, non-doctrinaire solutions that really do work for the citizens of our contemporary information society.